2019: Trump’s triumphs, global strongmen and death of privacy

Rajendra Aneja

2019 will be a tranquil year for me. My soulmate Patricia will not badger me to migrate to the US, UK, Brazil, etc. These countries do not welcome mundane citizens like us.

Elsewhere, the world will continue to be turbulent and unpredictable. The “Big Four” leaders have long innings. China’s Xi is president for life. Putin is safe till 2024, Japan’s Abe is ensconced till 2021.

President Trump will galvanize his base in 2019, for re-election in 2020. He could romp home, considering the improvements in employment and growth in the USA. So, the “Big Four” club may reign till 2024. Expect trade wars, mercurial decisions, political stalemates, refugee-phobia and ego-battles. Hopefully, the leaders will not equate themselves with the state itself. A country is always bigger than any leader or party.

PM Theresa May will have a torturous 2019. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s robust support of refugees, imposed cultural and financial burdens on her countrymen. She has lost luster. France’s Macron is embroiled in dousing “yellow-vest” fuel protest fires at home. Europe will be without a shining knight.

India’s poster PM Modi will seek re-election. An unwarranted demonetization, shoddily implemented Goods & Services Tax, pending promises on job-creation and terminating corruption have dented his image. Pakistan’s Imran Khan will try to stump terrorism and financial bankruptcy.

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi will maintain a subtle silence on the Rohingya crisis. If she is articulate, she may be nudged into oblivion again. Singapore will tantalize tourists with technology. Vietnam will focus on productivity.

Global growth will hover around 3 to 4 percent. It has ranged around 2 to 4 percent during the last decade. This is not good enough. About 11 percent of the world’s population sleeps hungry, living below the poverty line. About 844 million people do not have clean drinking water and 2.38 billion lack sanitation facilities. The World Bank and IMF must take steps to boost global growth to 7 percent. Hire business stalwarts like Bill Gates, Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos, if necessary.

The US could lead global growth with around 3-4 percent, bolstered by tax cuts, stimulus and higher spending. Fear no downturn even though the stock markets are steady. Tariffs wars will slacken globalization, not strangle it. European growth could stagnate at 1.5 percent. Brexit may puncture the British economy and reduce growth to one percent.

Hemmed in by tariff wars, China’s growth could decline to 6 percent. China has reduced its poor from 750 million to 10 million in three decades. India’s economy could hesitate at about 6 percent, since reforms will slacken.

Nigeria could be the new growth-engine of Africa. With Lagos undergoing an infrastructural metamorphosis and the Dangote’s petroleum refinery to commence in 2020, the country could blossom.

Oil prices will range between USD 55-60 a barrel, constrained by American shale oil production and lower demand. Do not expect overnight riches from the stock market. Gold will steady around USD 42 per gram.

The world must agonize about refugee children. They suffer malnutrition, but are also missing schooling. Innocent children are victimized by the war games that leaders play, to pander to their constituencies and aspirations.

Refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Myanmar seek food and opportunities. There are 65.6 million displaced persons globally. However, receiving countries are shutting their doors. Countries from where the refugees emanate, must rejuvenate their economies. Happy people never abandon their countries.

Corporations will deploy digitization to improve customer service. Companies also ponder how to survive oblivion in a fast changing world. Jeff Bezos has already warned his employees, “Amazon is not too big to fail, in fact, I predict that one day Amazon will fail.” Corporations will also face talent shortages, as youngsters opt to become entrepreneurs.

Digitization is now a way of life. Deployed creatively, digitization can enhance communications and efficiencies. However, in a war, artificial intelligence could annihilate armies. Around 200 million jobs are at risk, as robots make cars and even cakes.

Hopefully youngsters will spend more time playing football or cricket than on social media. Perhaps, people will consume less antibiotics.

The #MeToo movement may fizzle out. It has alerted the groping fingers of men to be wary.

Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Virat Kohli will continue to dazzle. Another Bond film may enthral us.

Forget your privacy, as telephone, Internet, cable and electricity wires merge. Every time you touch the keyboard of your phone or switch on your toaster, hidden systems record your searches and switches. Providers of various services can collate your profile and sell it.

The planet will get warmer. Plastic waste grows and smothers rivers and oceans. We will eventually pay the price for our neglect.

Perhaps 2019 will also reveal the plight of the 239 lives on Malaysian flight MH 370, missing since 2014. Their families wait for answers. We cannot forget them.

The most uplifting moment of 2018 was, when thousands of multinational divers, soldiers, rescuers, doctors and volunteers fought to save the Thai children and their coach from a cave. This selfless spirit could help us to find solutions to poverty, wars, HIV and cancer.

As a commoner, I hope for serene days, so Patricia and I can take long walks in a lonely park surrounded by mist or winter flowers. I hope, it is not too much to hope for. Happy New Year!

Rajendra Aneja,